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Witnesses of crackdown arrested or censored

(RSF/IFEX) - Opposition demonstrations that took place on 27 December 2009 were dispersed with violence and loss of life, and were followed on 28 December by raids by the intelligence ministry and Revolutionary Guards on opposition figures and news media and a new wave of hacker attacks on websites. Several journalists, including Emadoldin Baghi, have been arrested.

"The authorities want to silence the witnesses of the crackdown in order to continue committing atrocities with complete impunity," Reporters Without Borders said, reiterating its appeal to the international community to put more pressure on the Iranian government to respect its international undertakings. "Baghi and his colleagues have no place being in prison."

A leading human rights figure as well as a journalist, Baghi was arrested at his Tehran home on 28 December by men in plain clothes and was taken away to an unknown location. A staunch campaigner against the death penalty and 2005 winner of the French Republic Human Rights Prize, Baghi had been summoned and threatened several times by judicial and intelligence ministry officials since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed reelection on 12 June. In all, he has been summoned, sentenced and jailed more than 80 times in the past 10 years.

Alireza Behshtipour Shirazi, the editor of (opposition leader Mirhossein Moussavi's official website), was also arrested on 28 December at his Tehran home and taken to an unknown place of detention. Mostafa Izadi, a journalist who works for several newspapers such as "Etemad-e Melli", was also arrested at his home.

At the same time, plain-clothes men raided the headquarters of the weekly "Irandokhte", confiscating all of its computers. This newspaper has managed to publish only two issues since its launch.

The authorities confirmed on 28 December that Reza Al-Bacha, a Syrian journalist employed by Dubai TV, was arrested on 27 December. The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance press office nonetheless insisted that he was not working for the station at the time of his arrest.

Reporters Without Borders has received no information about several other Iranian journalists and bloggers who were also reportedly arrested.

Blogger and human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari ( ) was able to notify her family by phone on 24 December that she is being held in Section 209 of Tehran's Evin prison. She said she was arrested on 20 December, the day before Ayatollah Montazeri's funeral. She was previously arrested on 14 June and held for five months.

Several Internet Service Providers have meanwhile been cutting connections. The level of disruption was unprecedented: most independent or opposition websites were rendered inaccessible within Iran as a result of systematic attacks coming from "unidentified servers." Rah Sabaz (The Green Way), one of the leading opposition websites, was among those targeted. Last week, the Iranian cyber-police attacked the Mowjcamp and Twitter websites.

Several Tehran sources told Reporters Without Borders it was possible to demonstrate that these hacker attacks were being organised by the Iranian authorities and from Revolutionary Guard servers. The country's main ISPs depend on the Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI), a company that was bought by the Revolutionary Guards in September.

Parlemannews, the official website of the parliament's reformist minority, has been inaccessible since 26 December, following the Supreme Council for National Security's ban on any ceremony paying homage to Ayatollah Montazeri, who died on 20 December.

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